Whirling in the wind: Research focuses on turbine performance

This photo, taken facing east from Wick Avenue, shows the two wind turbines behind Melnick Hall.

This photo, taken facing east from Wick Avenue, shows the two wind turbines behind Melnick Hall.

Two wind turbines towering over the northeast corner of campus are part of a federal research grant aimed at developing alternative energy resources.

The turbines were installed over the summer behind Melnick Hall, and a third is slated to go up later this fall.

“It’s exciting research,” said Hazel Marie, distinguished professor and chair of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

The turbines, which are part of grants totaling more than $2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, will be used to research the extraction of wind power in areas of low wind speed, Marie said.

The pitch of the blades on one of the turbines can be changed. Measurements will be taken to compare the wind power on the standard turbine, compared to the wind power on the turbine with differently pitched blades.

As for the third turbine, Marie said research has already been done in STEM’s wind tunnel lab and with computer simulations showing that putting a shroud around the blades of a turbine can accelerate wind speed through the turbine. “Now we’re going to test that in the field,” she said. The third turbine will be built with a shroud around the blades.

While the turbines are primarily for research, Marie said the idea is that they could eventually produce some power for Melnick Hall.